COLCHESTER — For the first time in 47 years, Colchester’s residents will once again cast their ballots for or against the sale of alcohol within city limits.


The city has been a dry town for more than 80 years, but after amassing more than 225 signatures the city has petitioned the state of Illinois to add a referendum to the 2020 ballot: a measure that could repeal the city’s status as a dry town. The announcement came from City Clerk Donna Wetzel at the tail end of Monday’s City Council meeting.


The measure will specifically ask voters if they wish to continue the prohibition of alcohol and liquor sales in Colchester, meaning those who wish to begin selling these beverages will need to vote "no," while those who wish to see Colchester continue as a dry town are encouraged to vote "yes." The question will appear on the ballot for Colchester residents in the general election this November.


Colchester’s City Attorney Mariah Wallace said if the majority of voters cast their ballots to allow the sale of alcohol, the city would then have to write and adopt an ordinance to do so. This ordinance would reportedly set out what types of alcoholic beverages can be sold, with distinctions between hard liquor, beer, and wine. The ordinance may also determine how many alcohol-sale licenses are granted within the city. In 1973, a similar measure was put on the ballot and failed.


If passed, Wallace and council members have spoken to the limited nature of the potential ordinance. The petition signed by voters and sent to the state specified an end to the prohibition of packaged liquor sales only, meaning its repeal would not open the door for business to sell cups of beer, or for bars to open in the city. The petition, as written, has no language distinguishing beer, liquor, or wine. That, Wallace said, is for the council to decide only after the measure passes.


The lobby of Colchester City Hall at 500 E Roberts St, Colchester, IL 62326 is expected to reopen soon. Monday, June 30, the council approved that the lobby be reopened to the public after Wetzel’s station had been outfitted with a new, more hygienic front window design in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Wetzel said she was open to experimenting with a return to normal, with the exception that all guests are required to wear face masks in the lobby.


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